Daijiro Katoh worked his way steadily to the front in today's Portuguese 250cc Grand Prix – then never looked back, finishing a massive 16.9secs ahead of his nearest rival after 26 laps.
Tetsuya Harada had firmly taken the challenge to championship leader Daijiro Katoh throughout the two days of qualifying, and today's race looked destined to see another epic battle between the two Japanese riders – with McWilliams (who has crashed out of every race since his Assen victory), Melandri and even Fonsi Nieto (fourth on the grid) in the frame.
As the 250cc stars released their clutches and stormed into the tight first right hander it was Katoh who charged ahead – but Melandri put in an amazing late braking effort to squeeze inside Katoh, allowing Harada to also creep in front.
Harada then took the lead into the chicane mid-way around the first of 26 laps, with McWilliams fourth ahead of Fonsi Nieto. Into the chicane on lap two and Melandri returned the favour on teammate Harada by re-passing him for the lead, only for Harada to slipstream back in front at the end of the main straight at the beginning of the next lap.
By this stage the top three (Harada, Melandri and Katoh) were beginning to pull away from McWilliams, while Katoh's teammate Emilio Alzamora was now chasing the Ulsterman with Nieto (sixth) also still in contact.
Lap 5 and Melandri was once again back in the lead, as the top three remained inseparable, while Alzamora made his move on McWilliams for fourth and set about closing the 1secs gap to Katoh.
However, having waited until the frantic early race action had settled down, Katoh now began to threaten Harada – and duly split the black Aprilia's into turn one.
Next time around and Katoh repeated the move on Melandri to take the lead for the first time I the race on lap seven, while his teammate Alzamora was having an altogether different race as he crashed from his Honda.
Over the proceeding laps Katoh began to build a buffer up front by setting a lap time 0.3secs quicker than Melandri – and nearly 1secs faster than third placed man Harada, as the Brno victor began to fade.